Christmas in Xam Bo

Christmas in Vietnam is a strange feeling for sure. After all the years of Christmas being huddled indoors, hiding from the snow, spending the day in a light sweater and warm weather is a bit of a shock. A nice shock all the same, however.

Xam Bo is my mother’s village, about 15 minutes from the city of Hai Phong. It’s very rural, and very religious. A relative of mine always said (with great disdain) that people from there don’t work, they don’t do anything but sleep, eat, and go to church. Which is true to some extent. So of course, Christmas there is a huge affair. They decorate the village up in garish lights, in a display rarely seen back home. The church, the village’s center, as expected, is done up with no expenses spared. The Christmas mass, held outdoors is a huge spectacle, but to me, and my fellow Canadian youths, it was just another mass. Held at night, way later than we ┬áhad gotten used to staying up, and dragged on and on while we sat on rickety wooden benches that we brought from home.

At least, before heading into the church grounds, there were little vendors that sold balloons, candy, and popcorn that were delicious. As boring as the ceremony itself was, it’s hard to deny the very different feel of Christmas that you get abroad. Viva la motherland.

Because there's no snow in Vietnam, they dress their trees up with ratty cotton. It looks very funny. The first time I saw it, they had circled the entire base of a palm-like tree, and I thought it was just growing a cotton-like moss.

Glitter and confetti from Christmas crackers littered the streets that night.

One of the alleys (to call them streets would be too generous) done up for Christmas.

Back of the church.

The entire village (and surrounding areas) showed up for mass.

The front of the church (Nha Tho Xam Bo). Gorgeous, if slightly gaudy.